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Last-minute efforts fail, city stays 'noisy'

Written By kom nampultig on Sabtu, 25 Oktober 2014 | 22.10

NEW DELHI: Delhiites went all out to flout the visibly unrealistic 10pm deadline for firecrackers on the Diwali night.

Few days before Diwali, Union health minister and Chandni Chowk MP Harsh Vardhan had requested lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung to ensure a "silent Diwali" in the capital. The Delhi government then set up an inter-departmental team to implement the 2005 Supreme Court ban on bursting of sound-emitting firecrackers between 10pm and 6am.

However, with residents bursting crackers even past midnight, noise pollution levels breached the safe standard at most monitoring stations set up by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC). The government's warning to punish those flouting the ban also seemed to have little effect. Till Friday night, Delhi Police could not come up with any such prosecution.

There was no reduction in noise levels compared to last year either, according to the CPCB monitoring data. It also reveals that the level was within the night limit of 45 Leq dB (A) only at Dilshad Garden.

In most colonies, the noise level was at its peak between 8 and 9pm. It consistently stayed high even after 10pm. The choice of crackers for these late-night revellers was the loudest varieties.

Experts say it is important to make the deadline more realistic. "Implementing this kind of a ban requires a lead time for preparation. The authorities need to advertise and sensitize people about such restrictions and the heavy penalty involved in case of a violation. The authorities can't be high handed during a festival, necessitating campaigns at the community level," said Anumita Roychowdhury, head of CSE's Clean Air programme.

Vardhan had said Delhi had failed to implement the order while many state governments had been quite successful in restricting noise levels during festivals. "I hope that under your direction, Delhi will turn a corner from this Diwali onwards," the health minister had written to Jung.

DPCC had formed eight teams to assist the district magistrates and police to visit various areas to check the level of noise pollution and cracker shops.

The sub-divisional magistrates and police officials, being the designated authorities, were to ensure compliance of the SC order. The police department was supposed to sensitize PCR vans to keep a vigil. SDMs were also asked to organize awareness meetings with resident welfare associations and market trader associations in the run-up to Diwali.

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Diwali sends pollution levels spiralling in Delhi

NEW DELHI: The sustained anti-firecracker campaign, clampdown on Chinese crackers and a 10pm deadline do not seem to have made the city breathe any easier this Diwali than during the last one.

There was no significant improvement in air quality compared to last year. The range of average PM 2.5 (fine, respirable particles) may have reduced from 201-533 microgram per cubic metre last Diwali to 145-500 microgram per cubic metre but this has been negated by a substantial rise in oxides of nitrogen. An analysis by the Central Pollution Control Board in the run-up to Diwali day also showed very high levels of carbon monoxide and benzene. In short, Delhiites were exposed to unhealthy air both on Diwali and the day after.

The marginal dip in some pollutants was due to the warm weather and breeze that helped in dispersal. Air quality remained very poor with average PM 10 (coarse particles) and PM 2.5 at least five times the safe standard at almost all monitoring stations.

In fact, a random check of real-time data on the website of Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) on Diwali evening showed PM2.5 levels peak to about 16 times higher than the standard!

There was also an increase in oxides of nitrogen (NO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) levels which are linked to respiratory conditions and reduced lung function. "The maximum average of NO2 has certainly shown an increase over last year - it has shot up by more than two times the standard. This could be linked to the heavy traffic on Diwali and before Diwali while high SO2 levels are linked to use of sulphur-rich crackers. I don't see any significant improvement compared to previous years," said Anumita Roychowdhury, head of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

The CPCB's analysis of pre-Diwali and Diwali day air pollution pointed at certain pollutants that are otherwise ignored. Carbon monoxide levels, for instance, peaked to 4,328 microgram per cubic metre as against a safe standard of 2,000 microgram per cubic metre. In the run-up to Diwali, on October 20, levels of carcinogen benzene peaked to 22 micrograms per cubic metre as against the safe standard of 5 microgram per cubic metre. Benzene is a component of crude oil and petrol.The levels of PM2.5 — particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres (these fine particles can penetrate lungs easily) — were not available with CPCB on Friday evening. Officials said they could release the data on Saturday. But, according to DPCC's data, PM2.5 levels had improved slightly but were still about eight times the standard at some locations.

"Delhi government has taken steps to contain air pollution levels in Delhi during Diwali through multi-pronged anti-firecrackers campaign with the support and assistance of various stakeholders like eco-clubs, schools, colleges and RWAs. A mass awareness campaign was also carried out through radio channels and media," the environment department claimed in a statement on Friday.

But what both CPCB and DPCC did not talk about was the dangerously high air pollution on Friday, the day after the celebrations. System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), a joint project of Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), found air quality to be "severe" at most monitoring sites. SAFAR follows the air quality index (AQI) which simplifies the air pollution data by providing a colour grading and associated health impacts. The maroon category stands for "severe" which in simple terms means that the air quality is so bad that it can cause health complications even among the healthy population.

SAFAR, however, claimed that there was improvement in air quality compared to previous years. "The weather was warm and the boundary layer (lowest one or 2km of the atmosphere) was up. The slight breeze may have also helped pollutants disperse. There was also some reduction in bursting of crackers," explained Gufran Beig, chief project scientist, SAFAR.

An analysis by CSE of regulations abroad shows the stark disregard for enforcement in Delhi. "In order to cope with record smog, Beijing has issued an emergency plan to curb air pollution, including a ban on fireworks when the city sees three consecutive days of heavy smog. The city government recently introduced a regulation requiring people who buy five or more boxes of fireworks to register with an official ID; the city will halt fireworks sales entirely if pollution rises to dangerous levels," says the analysis.

It also found that Shanghai had cut the city's number of authorized firework sellers by 400.

Fireworks Regulation Act 2004 prohibits the use of fireworks in England and Wales between 11 pm and 7 am. These regulations are enforced by the police and a penalty of up to £5,000 or six months in prison can be enforced for a breach.

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Woman killed in scuffle over bursting of crackers

NEW DELHI: An elderly woman was killed and several others injured in separate incidents of violence that took place over bursting of crackers on Diwali night. Ten people have been arrested so far.

The woman, Shanta Devi (52), entered into an argument with another woman after someone burst crackers outside her house in Badli village around 8pm on Thursday. Soon, members of both the families joined the argument, which turned into a scuffle.

Police said the both sides started pelting stones at each other in which three people were injured. During this, one of the family members noticed Santa collapse and raised an alarm. She was rushed to the Ambedkar Hospital in Rohini where she died during treatment. Police suspect she might have succumbed to head injuries caused as result of the stone-pelting. The three others, including a 16-year-old girl, were admitted to the hospital with head injuries.

A team from the Samaipur Badli police station rushed to the spot around 8.30pm and brought the situation under control. More than 20 people were taken for a medico-legal checkup. A case of rioting has been registered against both the families and arrests will be made accordingly, police said.

In another case, a fight broke out between two groups over bursting of firecrackers in north Delhi's Majnu Ka Tilla. A police constable was injured in the incident. The fight turned violent when family members of two men, who had an argument initially, started pelting stones at each other around 11.30pm on Thursday. A police force was rushed to the spot and the situation was brought under control. The police had to use force to disperse the crowd. Eight persons have been detained so far.

Police said that members of both the families who live in the opposite sides of the Chandrawal village road started fighting with each other. They climbed the roofs of their houses and pelted stones at the public and passersby. At least 15 cars were damaged. "The clashes started after a youth from the locality burst a cracker near two men playing card at Chandrawal Road Chowk. The duo then thrashed the boy," said a villager.

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Cop stabbed in the leg

NEW DELHI: In another incident of a policeman being attacked, a cop posted with the Mansarovar Park police station was stabbed in the leg by a man on Wednesday night. The accused man has been arrested.

Around 11pm, ASI Jagdish was returning to the police station. He was waiting to go on to the other side of the road after resolving a dispute when the man, who was sit ting on the footpath, struck him with a glass bottle, a police official said. Jagdish immediately raised an alarm.

Other cops rushed to the spot and arrested the man, later identified as one Sonu.

A senior police officer said that Sonu was found to be involved in other cases earlier and charged under sections of causing hurt. A case has been registered against him.

Jagdish was rushed to GTB Hospital. He was discharged after treatment.

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Light rain likely in capital today

NEW DELHI: Slightly sultry conditions prevailed in the capital on Friday with temperatures settling a little above the normal even as the weatherman made a forecast for thundershowers and light rain in the city on Saturday. According to the Met de partment, the day temperature was recorded at 33.1 degrees Celsius, one notch above normal, while the minimum was registered at 19 degrees, which was two points higher than the average for this time of the year.

Humidity oscillated be tween 50% and 91%during the day . The Met office has predicted mist and shallow fog on Saturday morning.The day would remain partly cloudy with the possibility of one or two spells of light rainfall and thundershowers, it added.

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Delhi fire department gets 293 calls on Diwali

Written By kom nampultig on Jumat, 24 Oktober 2014 | 22.10

NEW DELHI: The Delhi Fire Services (DFS) received 293 calls — the highest in the past five years — on Diwali Thursday, an official said on Friday.

"This is the highest figure in the past five years. On Diwali, from midnight till 7am Oct 24, we received 293 calls of fire incidents from across the city," a fire official told IANS.

"Of these, 55 incidents were related to fire caused by crackers. But in most of the other cases, the reason behind the fire is yet to be ascertained," the officer added.

The figure did not increase much post midnight Oct 23-24, and only 73 calls were received till Friday morning, the officer added.

The highest number of 37 calls were received between between 9pm and 10 pm on Thursday.

While no major fire accident was reported in the city, two DFS officials received minor burn injures while trying to douse a fire in a shop in south Delhi area.

"None of the fire incidents caused any harm to the public at large, but left two of our officials with minor burn injuries while they were trying to douse a fire at a shop caused due to a cylinder gas blast in Okhla," another official told IANS.

The officer added both the fire fighters were taken to the Safdurjung Hospital where their condition was said to be out of danger.

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You click, they break their backs to deliver

NEW DELHI: This Diwali when you celebrate the advent of e-commerce — and goods being delivered at your doorstep at a discount — do spare a thought for the boys carrying them. These delivery boys, mostly in their 20s and 30s, are the lifeline of this business. And they have a difficult job — carrying backpacks weighing 40 kg and more. Doctors say they face the risk of developing disc problems, shoulder strain and other serious complications.

Santosh Yadav, who has been working as a delivery boy for nearly six months, says circumstances at home forced him to take up the job. "With so many people ordering online ahead of Diwali, work hours often get extended to midnight. The company prefers to send even printers and laptops through us because mini vans may get stuck in traffic," he says.

"My parents are poor farmers. They cannot afford to pay for my higher studies," says 24-year-old Santosh Yadav, a delivery boy. He is pursuing graduation from School of Open Learning under Delhi University.

On an average, delivery boys work from 9am to 6pm but during Diwali, work hours may stretch well into the night. Most delivery men employed with online retail companies get paid between Rs 9,000 and Rs 11,000, excluding their PF contribution and the amount deducted for medical insurance.

Dr Deepak Choudhary, director, Safdarjung Sports Injury Center, says it is painful to see young individuals struggling with neck pain, strained shoulder muscles and backache because they carry heavy backpacks daily. "We get two to three such cases on every OPD day. While in most cases the symptoms tend to subside with rest and ice compression, there is always a risk of complications in future that can put them out of action for life," he says. According to the doctor, carrying these heavy bags may lead to disc problems and strain on the shoulder muscles like rotator cuff leading to pain and inflammation at a later stage.

At Okhla Phase I, which has become a major hub for collection and dispatch of goods for e-commerce companies, hundreds of these boys can be seen rushing in and out to deliver items on Wednesday, a day before Diwali. "If I can finish all deliveries today, Diwali will be an off day," says Ajay Lal, revving up his bike. Deepak Mandal, a 32-year-old Badarpur resident, was advised rest by doctors following neck pain last month. "The company allowed me to carry lighter items when I showed them the prescription. But due to the Diwali rush, the loads have become heavier," he confesses.

Some of the delivery boys say they hate their jobs but being non-graduates they have little option. "I know driving. In near future, I plan to take up commercial driving to earn a livelihood. I cannot afford to do this back-breaking job anymore," says Rashid.

Dr Yash Gulati of BLK Super Specialty Hospital says the circumstances in which delivery persons for online retail companies work are no different from that of the porters. "They are rather more difficult. The latter can make a choice about the weight they may carry but these young individuals are forced to do so to earn a livelihood. Accidents caused due to poor balancing of the backpacks while riding bikes is common," he says.

"Even if we have to deliver a pen drive to one customer, the entire bag has to be carried because if any item is lost the company can deduct the cost from our salary," says Sanjeev Kumar as he quickly finishes his lunch. Experts say backpacks should not weigh more than 15-20% of the person's body weight but the online retail chains do not follow any such rules. While few companies have hired their own delivery boys, others get it done through courier agencies.

An e-commerce company was recently reported to have been attempting to redesign the courier bags to improve both delivery and customer experience. More such innovative initiatives may finally free the delivery boys from the tyranny of the backpacks.

Times View

It is inhuman that anybody in this modern age should be made to work like a pack mule. That it should be happening in sectors that are so modern — courier companies and e-retailing — only makes it worse. There is surely a better way of conducting the business than making young boys carry such heavy loads on their back. The courts had to step in to mandate that there must be a limit to the weight schoolchildren are made to carry. We hope that it will not require similar judicial intervention to end this inhuman practice. The government should regulate working conditions in this area, the sooner the better.


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Delhi's Diwali menus packed with both nostalgia and new flavours

A great meal can make or break your Diwali experience, and whether you're looking to try something new or want to go for a traditional meal, restaurants are offering a variety of menus to satisfy the customer's wants Diwali is no longer a festival of just hanging up lights, making rangolis or bursting firecrackers. Everyone knows the best part of any holiday is the food, and restaurants are getting creative as they cater to these expectations. Many have tweaked their menus and introduced dishes inspired by the traditional elements of Diwali, while others have presented their own versions of Diwali cuisine. Read on to see some preparations by restaurants to give customers a delicious Diwali experience.
Tweaking Indian dishes

"These days, Diwali has become a global festival, so we've infused Indian elements into our otherwise global menu. For instance, we have seekh tikka with masala-coated chickpeas, gun powder potato stew with fig puri and regenerated mattar-paneer. We're also mixing it up with sambuca flambe gulab ja mun with toffee cream sauce on cholai slabs and hickory wood-smoked moong daal halwa crumble with melted vanilla ice cream," says Vikrant Batra, owner, Terminus 1. The menu also includes nimbu anar shikanji and smoky tamarind margarita, all of which will be served till October 23.

Cafe Delhi Heights has spiced up its drinks to give it a patakha kick. With options like Diwali pataka punch, bijli bomb, chocolate and chilli kiss and Diwa-Hot Chocolate, the restaurant aims to give customers an `explosive' experience. "We have added spices and chilli to the drinks to give customers the desi patakha feel. We also have desserts like the flaming gulab jamun and sitafal, and cashew and raisin-flavoured kulfi, till Octob er 23," says Vikrant from Cafe Delhi Heights.


Going the traditional way

"Our buffet is completely Indian because that is what Diwali food is - completely desi.And, of course, we have mithai as India is all about mithai," says Zorawar Kalra, owner, Made in Punjab. The restaurant is offering eight-ten types of mithai, including milk cakes and three-four types of kaju katlis. And how are Delhiites liking this food bonanza?
"The festive buffet was supposed to be only for the Diwali week. But now we are planning to continue with this concept even after the festive season is over," adds Zorawar.

If you are a kebab fan, then head over to Kababo Ke Nawab - the Diwali kebab festival at Radisson Blu in Paschim Vihar. "Diwali is about family time, and for us, this translates into a kebab fiesta. The festive menu will be on till the end of October," says chef Dhiraj from Radisson Blu. The restau rant is offering specials like chooza pe shawari, nawadi roti, gilawafi seekh kabab, khade masaale ka paneer tikka, achaari phool and rajma ke shaahi galoti. Desserts too have traditional options like moong daal ka hal wa, phirni, kulfi and sewayi.

Cafe Turtle is offering a Diwali thali, which is inspired by Indian street food. A mix of sweet and savoury snacks, the thali comprises amritsari chola kulcha, tawa aloo tikki,dahi papdi chaat,khasta samosa,meethi khoj and a special masala tea served in a kul har. To seal the yummy deal, it is served with pickle and tamarind chutney on the side. "Our thali plays on the nostalgia of In dian street food, and we want to give people a taste of that," explains Priyanka Malho tra, owner, Cafe Turtle.

A modern take on Diwali dishes

Somerset mushroom soup, leek and potato soup or chicken pancakes florentine hardly sound like Diwali cuisine. But Roost Bistro has come up with these dishes, staying loyal to the type of cuisine it generally serves."We see Diwali as an indication of the changing of seasons. It reminds us of the onset of autumn and winter.So, in our special menu, which will be served till the end of the month, we have incorporated special soups and spicy dishes," says Pranav Kumar from Roost Bistro. Its menu also includes ginger honey hunter chicken, grilled corn fed thyme lemon chicken and saadiya samak.

Summer House Cafe has given Diwali food new meaning by tweaking their portions for the festive season. "Diwali means family time, so we've decided to increase the size of the servings and are giving discounts as well," says Anchit from Summer House Cafe. The restaurant also has some festive specials like sweet paprika chicken breast with creamy pesto sauce, crusted cottage cheese steak with chunky tomato sauce and traditional meat loaf with BBQ sauce and hot BBQ ranch beans. For those with a sweet tooth, the cafe is offering a mega-brownie Diwali mug till October 27.

Burger joint's Diwali shake

Who would have guessed Johnny Rockets, which opened recently in the capital, would catch the Diwali bug as well? The restaurant has come up with a Diwali shake, which will only be served on chotti and badi Diwali (October 22 and 23). "Diwali is the biggest festival in India. We wanted to do something special, so we picked up all the traditional elements - almonds, kesar and pistachio - and blended them for our signature badam, kesar and pista shake," says chef Dean from Johnny Rockets.

Dessert pizzas and French mithai

Some restaurants focus all their Diwali attention on their desserts, as they feel that Diwali is quintessentially about sweets. But eating a pizza for dessert is something we'd never have imagined. La Vie in Khan market has baffled Delhiites with its range of Diwali dessert pizzas. "We didn't want something completely Indian this Diwali, so we are offering dessert pizzas. It has a hint of tradition in its own way . It's made with the same dough as normal pizza, but is topped with almonds, dates and praline nuts, as Diwali is all about dry fruits and something sweet," says Anirudh from La Vie. Chocoburst pizza, banana crumble pizza, blueberry cheese pizza and apple crumble pizza are some options you can choose from till the end of the month.

If you have ever wondered what the French version of a badam barfi tastes like, then you'll find your answer at Le Bistro du Parc. The restaurant has added a French twist on the traditional badam barfi with almonds. Available from Monday till Diwali, the jugalbandi dessert comprises almond pastry, almond cream and fresh roasted almonds. "We have fused pistacchios, almonds and elements of Indian sweets in a traditional French recipe," says Naina from Le Bistro du Parc.

Everyone loves gulab jamun, but how many people can say they've eaten a flaming gulab jamun? Barrels' flaming gulab jamun is made from Bailey's rabri, which is rich in dry fruits and forms the base of the diya, atop which rests the rum-dipped gulab jamun. The diya is lit before it's served.

Diwali pretzel, anyone?

Germany and Diwali had no connection until Zu Tisch in GK came up with a Diwali home-made bakery box, which consists of apple strudel, black forest, red velvet and chocolate almond cake, pumpernickel bread and pretzels. It will be offered till the end of the month. "People are actually buying these hampers as gifts instead of dry fruits and sweets," says Mayank, the owner of the restaurant.

Motichoor and kaju katli donuts

Going the desi way is donut chain Mad Over Donuts, which started offering gulab jamun, motichoor and kaju katli-flavoured donuts last week. Tarak Bhattacharaya, COO, MOD, told us, "During Diwali, everyone is looking for something innovative instead of the standard mithai and now, even chocolate boxes. So we launched these Indian flavours to add a festive touch to our donuts."

With inputs from Aanchal.Tuli@timesgroup.com


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Fire in Delhi's Shastri Park slum cluster

NEW DELHI: A fire broke out at a slum cluster today in Shastri Park area of north-east Delhi, gutting several jhuggis.

However, no casualty has been reported so far. "We received a call about the fire at 10.19am. As many as 14 fire tenders were rushed to the spot to douse the flames," an official of the fire department said.

The fire fighters managed to douse the fire by around 11.25am and the situation was brought under control, he said, adding, heavy smoke filled the area.

"No casualties have been reported. The reason behind the fire is yet to be ascertained," the official said.

According to initial reports, over 50 jhuggis were gutted in the incident. Plastic and wood kept in an open yard in the area fuelled the fire.

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Air quality deteriorates alarmingly in Delhi after Diwali

DELHI: Air quality in the national capital deteriorated alarmingly a day after Diwali as pollution levels spiked more than five times higher than normal leaving many at the risk of respiratory problems.

The Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM), which directly affects breathing, has gone up by five times from the national ambiance air quality standard, stated scientists from System of Air quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR).

"The 24-hours average of PM10 was recorded at 427mg per cubic metre and PM2.5 was at 278mpcm, almost five times higher than the prescribed standard of 100mpcm and 60mpcm respectively," said senior scientist Dr Gufran Beig at SAFAR, which is jointly run by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and India Meteorological Department.

"These pollutants can harm the heart and brain as well. People with existing heart or lung diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart disease, or ischemic heart disease are at increased risk of admission to hospitals based on the severity of already existing problem," he said.

Since 10pm onwards, an upward trend was witnessed at all six air quality monitoring stations in Delhi.

According to real time ambient air quality data of Delhi Pollution Control Committee, PM2.5 was at its peak at 5.30am and recorded 724 microgram per cubic meter (mpcm) in R K Puram.

In Punjabi Bagh, the PM2.5 was at its peak at 1am and was recorded at 755 mpcm, while PM10 was recorded as 1,490 mpcm highest at 3.30am.

At Mandir Marg, the particulate matter PM2.5 was at its peak at 2.30am and recorded 984 mpcm while PM10 was recorded as 1,200 mpcm highest at 2am.

The peak pollution level monitored in Civil Lines was PM2.5 at 999.85 mpcm from 11am to 2.30am and the PM10 was 1,000 mpcm from 9pmM to 3am.

At Anand Vihar, PM2.5 was recorded highest at 814 mpcm at 1 AM while PM10 was highest at 1500 mpcm during midnight.

PM2.5 was at its highest at IGI airport at 347.41 mpcm around 11.30pm and PM10 was recorded the highest at 404.98 mpcm during the same time.

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